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OCTOBER ALBUMS | MUSIC REVIEW

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ALAW ****

Dead Man’s Dance (Taith)

Dead Man’s Dance inventively blends the mysticism of traditional Welsh folk with the emotional vibrancy of pop and rock. Travelling through uplifting moments and hints of sadness, we explore the theme of reflecting on the simpler things in life. All the way from the hand-clapping romp of Santiana to the wistful balladry of gorgeous closing number When It’s Gone, Alaw appear to be leading the way in reinventing the sound of trad Wales for a modern audience. AS

 

Music Review

ANDREW HUNG ***

Realisationship (Lex)

You may recognise Andrew Hung as half of noisy electronic duo Fuck Buttons, but this is quite a departure from their sound. Thematically, the record veers between simple danceable repetition and other elements of weirdo folk. The divide between the two styles can be a little bit jarring, but his greatest success is achieved on the pretty and minimal closing song of the album. If you get your kicks from Animal Collective OR stuff released on DFA, then this is for you. GM

Music Review

ASTROID BOYS ****

Broke (Music For Nations)

Cardiffian counterculture comes to the surface with the release of Astroid Boys’ debut album. Merging the rebellious vibes of grime, punk, and rap, the Welsh boys display their versatility throughout, mixing elements of brassy grime and metallic riffs on Kill and Razz. Traxx, the master of slang, dominates with charismatic flow and earnest lyricism; Soonish, Lost and Broke are tracks made for and by the twentysomething generation. Like any music from a disenfranchised youth, the message is that society is fundamentally BrokeCP

BEN FROST ****

The Centre Cannot Hold (Mute)

Ben Frost makes music that sounds gorgeously broken, where melancholy neoclassical arrangements compete with meticulously sculpted electronic noise. This latest platter, recorded with Steve Albini, pitches itself as “existing not in space, but in a space,” which doesn’t quite fit a work with few obvious/unprocessed acoustic elements. Frost seems to have allowed a bit of the currently in vogue post-Stranger Things synthpop to creep in, whilst still retaining his signature spectrum-shredding sound. Apocalyptic. APR

 

Music Review

BETSY ****

Betsy (Warner Brothers)

The self-titled debut from Betsy is a rhythm and blues amalgamation that smoothly melds with the bouncing disco-pop era. The singer’s deep vibratos, alto singing style and infectiously catchy choruses make this collection exceptionally original, separating it from cluster of newly released work while successfully capturing an iconic sound from the past and giving it a fresh breath of Welsh air. This LP could prove to be the first steps for a new Welsh pop symbol. NR

BLANCMANGE ****

Unfurnished Rooms (Blanc Cheek)

With 80s hits Living On The Ceiling and Blind Vision to their credit, this latest album from the synthpop act finds remaining member Neil Arthur continuing to apply the warped wit, characteristic of the band’s heyday, to asinine aspects of modern life. From tackling the eco-effects of a Waitrose plastic bag on We Are The Chemicals to Don’t Get Me Wrong’s wry critique of social media, Blancmange retain the creative chutzpah that underpins both their early work and late renaissance. CHP

ENSLAVED ****

E (Nuclear Blast)

Not many bands are brave enough to open their album with an 11-minute epic, but then not many bands are Enslaved. Their 14th album sees the band further exploring Norse mythology and the runic reference of the letter E. This is their first album with new keyboardist and clean vocalist Håkon Vinje, who adds another element to their already busy repertoire, but apart from that it’s more of the same Bathory-meets-King Crimson that we’ve come to expect. CA

EUROPE ****

Walk The Earth (Hell & Back)

Beginning like an old movie soundtrack, when the guitars kick in what follows is 10 tracks of musically tight, vocally pleasant heavyish rock. This is the Swedish band’s 11th studio album and there are some solid sounds here, notably Tony Reno’s drumming. When it comes to generic heavy rock Europe are at the forefront and though Walk The Earth lacks the power of their infamous 1986 single, it proves the band are more than the sum of The Final Countdown. LN

FEEDER ****

The Best Of (BMG)

Here’s a treasure trove for Feeder fans, with 50 songs perfectly demonstrating Grant Nicholas’ way around a melody. All stages of their journey are present from the grungey origins of Swim through to All Bright Electric. Highlights include early stoner anthem High, the catchy guitar pop of Buck Rogers and lesser known gems like Children Of The Sun. This compilation provides a fuller picture than 2006 collection The Singles, and the bonus disc of new songs prove there’s still plenty of creative juices flowing through their veins. NC

GWYNETH GLYN ****

Tro (Bendigedig)

Tro, which is Welsh for ‘turn’, is a “passionate journey that draws on Gwyneth’s rooted influences and recent experiences”.  Musically, it has a mystical, haunting feel not unlike All About Eve’s Martha’s Harbour. Lyrically speaking, some tracks are accessible only to Welsh speakers, of which I am not one, but I can at least confirm that the lyrics on the English language tracks are poetic, Gwyneth’s voice is melodic and overall the album is a thing of gentle beauty. LN

Music Review

NORDIC GIANTS ***

Amplify Human Vibration (Kscope)

The mythically named Rôka & Löki, of Nordic Giants, paint big post-post-rock anthems situated somewhere between the sampledelic Public Service Broadcasting and the elemental Sigur Rós, on this soundtrack to their film pitched as “exploring the  best in human nature and the kindness in humanity”. On a warm and fuzzy sliding scale then:  the anthemic Taxonomy Of Illusion is equal to cooking dinner for a friend, Immortal Elements is giving a homeless person £20, and the rapturous Autonomous is offering a home to a Syrian refugee. CS

OM UNIT ****

Self (Cosmic Bridge)

This is that ethereal drum’n’bass sound. Deconstruction is the order of the day, Jim ‘Om Unit’ Coles serving it so sparse, there isn’t a drum tapped until the middle of track three (aptly named Out Of The Shadows). The minimalist approach continues throughout, with only transient moments of conformity of genre. Coles provides fundamental d’n’b on Twilight and Make Believe, which may come as a relief; Despite It All is the climax of this electronic dream sequence. Forget the jungle, this is the twilight zone. CP

OSHH ****

OSHH (Blinc)

With powerful vocals and swirling layers of impressive synth work, the debut album from Welsh artist OSHH acts as an excellent introduction to electronic music. Used To Fly displays an acute sense of melody and atmosphere, while Birds offers an inspirational and vivacious listen. Finally, Aflonyddu closes the album with sweeping theatrics.  We are left with the sense that, while OSHH may be a newcomer in the field of modern electronic music, he has a bright future ahead of him. AS

PERE UBU ****

20 Years In A Montana Missile Silo (Cooking Vinyl)

The most enduring mystery following the conclusion of Twin Peaks: The Old Grey Whistle Test must surely be why Mr. Lynch didn’t extend an olive branch to David Thomas and his band of avant-garblers? The worlds of David and David seem tailormade for each other! And this album is no exception. Oily, snake-hipped riffs, synths that zap and ping and Thomas rambling and hollering in his inimitable marbles-in-the-mouth, Tony Clifton warble. Black as midnight on a moonless night. AJ

Music Review

PROTOMARTYR *****

Relatives of Descent (Domino)

The third album from the Detroit noise merchants finds them sticking to the template that has brought them to a larger indie label, Joe Casey’s cryptic lyrics delivered in a stark baritone over a mesh of post-punk atmospherics and intricate melodies. A Private Understanding is a surprisingly moving At The Drive-In via early Pixies anthem; My Children starts off aping 1983-era Fall before turning into Murmur-era REM, but each song in this collection highlights the new confidence of a genuinely original band. PJ

SAMOANS ***
Laika (Apres Vous)

Following on from the Welsh Music Prize nominated Rescue, this album – named after the world’s most famous Cosmodog – sees Samoans pay homage to a whole gamut of musical influences. Openers Second Tongue and Monuments unexpectedly offer a nod towards the mid-90s output of Alice In Chains. The production is space-age and slick and whilst the constant loud-quiet-loud song progression can get a little jarring in places, it works especially well on stormers such as Terra and Patience. BG

Music Review

THE SELECTER ****

Daylight (DMF)

Some might say that today’s artists are keeping schtum about the mad circus of evolving political buffoonery we are trapped in. We do have Ghostpoet and Nadine Shah who do not mince their words when it comes to injustice, pretty much like what original 2-Tone aka legends The Selecter have being doing since the late 1970s. With Daylight, The Selecter have lost none of their sociopolitical clout with songs that sink their teeth into the backside of inequality and division. DN

Music Review

ST. VINCENT *****

Masseduction (Loma Vista)

St Vincent returns with a captivating and electric album that comes in swinging from the very first track. Every song on the album feels carefully selected and crafted with care: there are no filler tracks here. Album highlights include New York, Fear The Future and the title track Masseduction, while quiet tracks like Slow Disco are few, and more poignant for being so. All in all, a beautiful record that will keep electropop fans coming back for seconds. LB

UNCLE ACID AND THE DEADBEATS *****

Vol 1 (Rise Above)

Initially released in 2010, Vol 1 was something of a cult secret among stoner rock fans. The band broke a year later with the release of Blood Lust and fans starting clamouring for the early recordings of their new favourite band. Now remastered, but with all the shoddy bits left in to keep that DIY vibe, the UK’s finest purveyors of Sabbath/Coven-esque 70s psych rock show us how it all began. CA

VAN MORRISON ***

Roll With The Punches (Exile)

Van The Man is back with a selection of classic rhythm & blues covers plus a bunch of new tunes. Hits from artists including Bo Diddley, Count Basie and Sam Cooke sit comfortably alongside Van’s self-penned numbers. Tracks such as Van’s own Transformation are rather downbeat, while others – Bo Diddley’s I Can Tell – are more rousing but still lack oomph. Overall, the album is a laidback affair, perhaps too laidback – though no doubt this album will be great sung live. LN

VARIOUS *****

Andina: The Sound Of The Peruvian Andes (Tiger’s Milk)

If I told you this album is partly a promotional tie-in for a Shoreditch restaurant, you would gesture wildly in performative exasperation. If, though, I added that it collects obscure sassy snakehipped Peruvian music of the late 1960s and 70s – lashings of cumbia, ample Latin jazz and delirious violin-driven folky stuff – maybe you would ease up. And then I’d throw it on and in five seconds you’d be chachacha-ing around the room and sloshing wine about and gesturing wildly again but in a good way. NG

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  • Camilla Grøtta

    Oh dear. Tony Reno hasn’t been the drummer in Europe since 1984.
    Granted, the drumming is amazing, but the musician behind it is Ian Haugland.